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Spies in the House of Art

Selected Highlights

Spies in the House of Art

Photography, Film, and Video

February 7–August 26, 2012

Artists are the secret constituency of museums, inspired and challenged not only by the objects and collections they display but also by the spaces in which they are shown and the authority they represent. Most artists aspire to see their works in museums, even if they joke among themselves about how museums are mausoleums, places where art goes to die. In telling stories about how and why art gets made, museums provide a ready-made foil for artists to react against and clarify their own positions.

This selection of photography, film, and video from the permanent collection surveys the various ways museums inspire the making of works of art. A museum can be the setting for a new work or provide the raw material for creations that build upon a previous aesthetic experience. The camera can highlight the estrangement of objects from their original functions, unlock from a straitlaced decorousness of display the desires—libidinal or otherwise—that engendered the objects in the first place, or make visible the imaginative projection that underlies much looking at art. At a time when the automatic reflex of a technologically harried and distracted museum visitor may be to point and shoot, capture and move on, these works suggest the benefit of stepping back, reflecting, and lingering.

Image: Cindy Sherman (American, b. 1954). Untitled, 1989. Chromogenic print; 166.4 x 125.7 cm. (65 1/2 x 49 1/2 in. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Purchase, Joyce and Robert Menschel Foundation Gift, Mr. and Mrs. Eugene Schwartz Gift, and The Horace W. Goldsmith Foundation Gift through Joyce and Robert Menschel, 1991 (1991.1137). © Cindy Sherman